GW2: Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?

aka The Dilemma of Playing Realistic Female Characters in an MMO

I made my female Norn warrior last night, having decided to use some of that gold for a character slot after all.

Immediately, I was of mixed minds whether I should be keeping her.

This isn’t just the standard complaint of boobs and skin peeping out of convenient holes in armor that would be delicious for an attacker to stick a sword into, though.

Yes, we know GW2 suffers from a “first impressions” presentation problem.


The default appearance for several kinds of female professions delights in showing off skin and boob plates. This one’s not too bad though, it harkens back to the old Jora look (though she herself seemed designed to be one of those pinup girl faces of GW1) and you should see the female human light armor problems.

I’ve always been cool with that because as a well-educated GW2 fan, I am aware that this game has options beyond the barbie doll sex appeal look that is immediately attractive to the most populous youthful male demographic.

What I didn’t quite realize was how tricky reaching those options would be, while still looking like a character I’d want to play.

The default face and hair settings started making me a little depressed because a majority of them seemed tilted toward “female human” cute and perky.



The body defaults weren’t any better.


The choice seemed to be between various shades of anorexic or downright plump.

(I’ll at least give Anet kudos for including the last option, though it wasn’t at all appealing to imagine myself running a giant fat lady character through the world and wondering what kinds of whispers I was going to get from other players. While it may be an amusing side goal to get them all 72 hour banned for harassment, I would actually just want to play the game here with a character that doesn’t attract abnormal amounts of attention.)


Let’s not even talk about how dorky the helmets look, shall we? (Where the fuck did my hair go?)

Maybe my take on the lore isn’t as strong as I’d like, but I always envisioned most Norns to be big, trending toward the muscular, possibly Amazonian in stature.

Anyhow, because that is the type of character I am trying to make on a -roleplaying- server that values a lore-appropriate look, LET ME make the mannish, not immediately pretty and possibly somewhat homely, stern lady warrior concept in my head already.

I persisted. GW2 supports options. GW2’s character creation has sliders. There must be a way.

A great deal of slider pulling later, creating some of the awful-looking faces possible in the manner of most unskilled players operating sliders in character creation (ok, at least GW2 has that option for scarily ugly if you want it – click the link only if you’re prepared to see what greets people zoning into the Heart of the Mists on Tarnished Coast, they’re pretty famous), trying to get the closest I could to the character concept in my head, I eventually settled on a vaguely piratical, square-faced, stern-jawed appearance, complete with scars and bandana.


I still wasn’t sure whether I’d achieved believably realistic, or just plain fucking ugly.

(Something about the distance of the eyes still nags at me slightly, but I’ll be damned if I go through all that slider pulling in character creation again.)

You might ask, why was I so obsessed with how “I” looked.

Good question, I kept asking myself that too.

I think I just knew that walking around as a tall giant character draws eyes, and every last detail on the model is a lot easier to see on a Norn than say… a human or sylvari, let alone an asura. If something looks “off,” it’s just going to be a lot more obvious than say, some lil guy’s three toes sticking out of shoes that don’t fit.

Then I landed in the world and hit the Norn problem. An outsized avatar runs slowly. It also runs like a human female, complete with little dainty dance of the hands, that on a giant character make it look like a waddle.

I was already having second and third thoughts about going through with this.

I ended up taking her into the Heart of the Mists to check both the PvP locker to see if future skins held any hopes of looking good (minus about half of the options for ridiculous skin and boob designs, minus another quarter or third of the options for being plain butt ugly, there were a -few- left that seemed to hold some promise) and test out the combat animations for various weapons (which I have to say, I rather liked. Or found quite passable indeed.)

One of the reasons for why I wanted a Norn Female character is because they’re voiced by Claudia Christian (she of Babylon 5 fame.) I wanted to hear that voice acting through my personal story.

But I was really not sure if I was okay running around with an oddly proportioned giant lady towering over everyone in towns like a bad B movie.

Since the character was already made, I eventually decided that I’d take her at least up to level 10, where the personal story would drop a black lion key I could hoard and see if things got better or if she grew on me, or if I was going to continue feeling awkward and generally “not feeling it” for the character.


It wasn’t so bad among other Norns in Hoelbrak or Wayfarer Foothills, though I developed a habit of running up to every NPC to measure my height and check if I looked out of the ordinary against other Norn females. (What the hell was happening to me? Why this sudden obsession about my self-image?)

I even met a Jotun giant who was taller than all the Norn who told some interesting stories about the Age of the Giants, of which Norn and Jotun shared a certain common heritage apparently. Thinking about it that way made me feel better, that I was part of a race of giants, rather than an awkward over-sized female human that vaguely resembled Xena and could look fat at certain unflattering camera angles.

None of which was probably going to help me the moment I hit a human proportioned town or have nosy asura looking up my skirt though.

Still dancing with the idea of deletion, I decided to hit the Hall of Monuments to see if a good (armor) skin and dye job could help.


It did.

Oh my fucking lord, how it did.

I suppose some of the problem was that the lowbie heavy armor was plain ugly, no matter what character you put it on.

I put on heritage armplates, leggings and boots, which gave me plate armor on all the extremities you’d expect a tall giant lady to have in contact with shorter beings in combat (also functions great to boot a nosy asura with), and left the top in chainmail for better flexibility (the better to reach over and thwap you with a gigantic sword.)

I was also surprised how good the default Ebony dye came out on this particular armor for Norns. It’s almost a true black. (On all my other characters, it’s always been a more dark grey.)

As everyone knows, black is slimming.

Add on Stone and Matte for shiny metal highlights, some Tarnished Steel for variation, and the end result is something I could probably live with.


At least for another 10-20 levels, where I might re-evaluate again once I get to non-Norn proportioned settlements.

Still can’t do anything about the dorky helmets though.

*Hides them all*

4 thoughts on “GW2: Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?

  1. Hehe…I find this post very interesting because you’re being so honest. you see, I don’t think your Norn looks fat in any of the pictures. she looks great; I would even say she is still on the more slender side if we were really to bring the majority of real-life society into the discussion. it’s odd how in games or movies, the audience seems to use different standards to what’s real around them in every day life. I notice especially in my male friends how little of a clue they have about what real women actually weigh. I asked my own partner once what he thinks I weigh and he under-estimated me by more than 10 kilos.

    In general, I don’t think the females are fat or oddly proportioned, the oversized boobs aside (ANet seems to think the heavier a person, the bigger her boobs must be). there are some chubbier forms yeah, but they’re still fit. the only reason why they stand out is because the humans in particular are extremely skinny.

    And I think that’s what happened to you too, at first. you judged your Norn with normative eyes, coming from the ‘skinny is beautiful’ perspective we’re all so used to. but gradually, you adjusted – I would bet the dyes had less to do with that than you think. I
    I always choose the tallest female character in the MMOs I play. Part of that is I just love being tall – I am 5’9 – 6′ in real life (without shoes) and it’s nice not having to look up to most people. And I also choose tall chars because of armor display – I want my shiny bits to show off, not disappear on a tiny body. I am usually the tallest character in my GW2 parties unless there’s a male Norn around, and it will automatically make me look the heaviest too – I don’t mind one bit. let them fear me! 😀

    Where I agree completely with you is the facial choices for female Norn and the boob proportions. I was very disappointed in the female faces, for the most part they are as dollish as the humans. as for bodies, as mentioned I don’t dig that boobs are fixed with body type. I have to choose between a more slender Norn with less boobs or a heavier one with huge boobs – both isn’t what I would go for. I settled with the first because the huge rack bothers me too much personally.


    1. Well, I actually failed to take a screenshot of the character pre-HoM skins at an unflattering camera angle. She looked decidedly chubby in the default lowbie armor, to my eye at any rate. (Which, as you say, might be affected by different standards.)

      I’m placing most of the blame on that armor set though, now that I’ve seen that other armor can look perfectly fine with a good dye job.

      Give me time to get a few more levels and outgrow this set, and I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity for more escapades of horrible armor screenies. There were plenty I saw in that PvP locker. 🙂


  2. It is interesting when you are human and go to that village at the norn start zone with children throwing snowballs. The norn children and humans have same height….


  3. “I asked my own partner once what he thinks I weigh and he under-estimated me by more than 10 kilos.”
    – That’s because he didn’t want to wake up in the river wearing cement shoes. :p

    Lived in Asia in the 90s, right BEFORE Korea got into McDonalds and Burger King.

    People went, in the span of about 5 years, from making Calista Flockhart look fat, to making Rosie O’Donnell look thin.

    – We have a perception in the west and modern world now that is based on a society that couch surfs and eats about 500% more red meat than we are evolved to eat.

    Fantasy people would be lean, shorter, with wiry muscles: either built for peasant farming, or for killing (think Bruce Lee – skinny but muscled). Assuming the magic is not there to build up the food supply system, many of them would be malnourished and poorly proportioned (think of how Asians born before the 90s often have short legs, while western-diet Asians into athletics are often over 6′ tall).

    Point there all being that the characters -should- be skinnier.

    GW2 has a magical system that can keep a food supply going (the Asura gates essentially solve the issue that in the real world was not solved until trucking and refrigeration). It doesn’t have serfs / peasants – but seems more to have citizens. That is critical: a free people who can essentially balance their activity will have builds that are not mishaped, but healthy.

    So you’re looking at a world full of people with Bruce Lee’s or Laila Ali’s (Mohammad Ali’s daughter – who was also a boxer) body builds.

    The skinny figures make sense in this context – provided some are muscular. But not all should be; the caster professions are going to be less muscle and logically -would- look more like Calista Flockhart or David Bowie in build.

    And Norn are just a bigger version of this.


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